The Art of Wrapping a Motorcycle Exhaust

Wrapping a motorcycle exhaust and wrapping it well is both an art and a science.  This post covers my experience in this area and a few tips or tricks I can share to help you get it done successfully (by the way Tip #6 is probably the best one, so don’t stop reading half way through).

Remember, follow the instructions that come with the wrap.  These tips or tricks are meant to be supplemental so that you end up extra satisfied with the final result.

Wrapping a motorcycle exhaust is often done for looks, but for me it has often been about salvaging a set of pipes that weren’t quite ready for the junk yard.  Maybe it is as simple as the chrome having seen better days.  Wrapping a motorcycle exhaust can be a nice, affordable face-lift under these circumstances.

For this job, you will need a basic exhaust wrapping kit.  I recently purchased the DEI Motorcycle Exhaust Wrap Kit.  I like this guy because it comes with some nice metal ties and the silicone spray all together.  It is definitely a little pricier than some other kits out there, but that brings me to Tip #1.

Top 6 Tips for Wrapping a Motorcycle Exhaust

wrapping a motorcycle exhaust
Tip #1:  Don’t cheap out on the exhaust wrap, ties, or spray.  Think about it.  Once on the bike, the wrap is going to take some abuse (heat, vibration, wind, dirt).  At the end of the day, the wrap is a woven fabric, and quality matters if you want it to hold up.

Tip #2:  Don’t forget to wear gloves the entire time you are installing.  These wraps contain fiberglass and trust me, you don’t want to get it on your hands.

Tip #3:  I suggest taking the pipes off the bike.  Don’t be lazy about it.  Sure, you can wrap the pipes while they are still on the bike, but I find having them off the bike allows you to maneuver them better while wrapping.  Also, clean the pipes before you start wrapping.

Tip #4:  Wrap wet or dry?  Don’t laugh, but I am going to say, “something in the middle.”  Depending on the wrap and the instructions included, the directions might say to soak the entire wrap in a bucket of water before wrapping.  This can get kind of messy.  I also have known people to have plenty of success wrapping completely dry.  Personally, I have found that a moist wrap is easiest for getting a tight wrap while still being able to work with it.  I have a couple of these cheap spray bottles in my workshop.  Fill one with water and spray each section as you go.

Tip #5:  Overlap should generally be about a quarter-inch, but can and will need to be more around bends.  This is the “art” part of the project.  Take your time and unwrap and re-wrap until you are satisfied.  Also, I typically start at the header end – the reason being that I like to have more leeway and flexibility in how I wrap in order to get around the sharper bends. 

Now, I recently had a discussion with someone who said that wrapping from the tail end is better.  His justification was that the wrap doesn’t break down as quickly (maybe because there is less wind exposure to the initial section of the wrap).  Honestly, for now, I am sticking with my opinion of header-first.  However, I always like to hear different perspectives, and I am curious to see how this latest wrapping job stands up against the test of time.

Tip #6:  You can use hose clamps or metal cable ties to secure the wrap at each end (and maybe one spot in the middle – just below the curved section).  What some people don’t tell you is that you can use them together!  Wrap the hose clamp around the metal tie and use the screwdriver tightener on the hose clamp to slowly “push” the metal tie tighter and tighter.  Alternatively, you can use what I call the tuck-and-fold method. 

This can be done with needle nose pliers or angled needle nose pliers.  The YouTube video below is a good demonstration of this method.  Typically, I find the most success with the tuck-and-fold method.

Okay, so that’s it – my advice for wrapping a motorcycle exhaust.  Remember, when you fire up that bike the first time, the wrap is going to smoke and smell horrible for a while.  You should expect to have to run the bike in a well ventilated area a few times before this stops.

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